Reality Check: 'Voice' judges fail to give mature talented Pittsburgh singer a shot

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Tuesday's episode of NBC's "The Voice" proved that ageism is, apparently, also a part of reality television.

The failure of any of the program's four judges to give Yolanda Barber a chance to advance in the popular singing competition set off a firestorm of comment the following day.

The judges -- Christina Aguilera, CeeLo Gree, Adam Levine and Blake Shelton -- were listening to performances, sight unseen. But it was obvious that Highland Park resident Ms. Barber, 55 years old and a 45-year veteran whose resume includes performing on cruise ships and in a wedding band, was not your average contestant.

Singing a soulful version of "Get Here," Ms. Barber wowed the audience. But she couldn't tempt any of the judges to choose her. The next singer, Cassadee Pope, sang off-key and was lauded by the panel.

"So 'The Voice' is telling me that last girl, who was off-key most of the time... is a better talent than Yolanda? I hate this show," was a typical fan post.

More credible critics agreed. Rolling Stone recapper Jessica Hopper noted "The judges made shamefaced excuses, but none would admit that a mature singer with such finesse isn't a fit for a competition that is dominated by teenage pep and copious melisma."

Michael Slezak, who was Entertainment Weekly's "American Idol" expert in the show's heyday and now comments for, wrote "All four of 'em looked and sounded ashamed to have left Yolanda to languish ...

"But none displayed the courage or curiosity to let her advance to the Battle Rounds against vocalists who were half her age [and possessed only half her talent]."

"I'm here to represent 50 and over," Ms. Barber said in a taped segment aired before her rejection. "I really thought it was too late for me. I was just doing little jobs at home, driving a school vehicle and I thought that was it.

"But I know now today I was supposed to be here," she added, in tears. "This is my time."

But Pittsburgh will be represented in the next round. Loren Allred, daughter of longtime Bach Choir director Brady Allred and his wife, Carol Ann, was chosen last week.

Elsewhere on reality TV ...

• Dancers, break out the toe shoes! The CW has ordered a second season of "Breaking Pointe," which follows the lives of Utah's Ballet West company. One of the season 1 stars was Allison DeBona, who grew up in the area and is a graduate of Chartiers Valley High School.

The CW also will give a second season to "Oh Sit!," a musical chairs-type competition show.

• On "Face Off" (Syfy, Tuesdays), it's all about the video-games. Artists are asked to give their own spin to characters from "Dishonored."

Alana Rose Schiro, a graduate of the Tom Savini Special Make-up Effects school in Monessen, sculpts an elongated head and face to a class of "Dishonored" citizen called a "weeper," and the judges are sort of "meh."

She's safe for another week.


Maria Sciullo: or 412-263-1478 or @MariaSciulloPG.


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